The word racism has changed its definition and perception over the last 2 to 3 decades. This point is important because we cannot heal racism if we do not understand what it is and what creates it.
This post is not easy to write because the topic is worthy of much more space than I have here. Please take these words as a starting point. Use them for personal reflection on your perspective and what you need to do to heal yourself.
What Racism is and What It is Not
The concept of racism is not new to humanity. Human beings have been racist since the beginning of time. Low self-esteem, arrogance, anger, the need to have power over others, or the need to feel superior to others has been part of the human condition and creates all of isms of hatred and prejudice.
However, the word racism is relatively new to the English language. “It was first defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition, 1989) as ‘[t]he theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race;’ the same dictionary termed racism a synonym of racialism: ‘belief in the superiority of a particular race.’”1
Most dictionaries today define racism as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. However, the very important secondary definition given is the judgment, prejudice, or hatred of another race (for any reason).
Any perception of another person based on race is racism. However, beginning in the 1990s, the word began to become politicized. The meaning shifted to any use of race or nationality to describe anyone or anything in any way.
Racism is the intent of prejudice and judgment of another race. We cannot heal racism by trying to erase our unique qualities and individual distinctions. Yes, we are all One, but we are also designed to be different. We heal by recognizing and honoring those differences as special and important, not by trying to eradicate them.
A Movie Example
There is a difference in non-judgmental observation and respect for another race or culture and racial prejudice. I am recounting a scene from I movie I saw about six years ago that makes that has stuck with me. I apologize for not remembering the title, but if I find it, I will post it. The following is, of course, paraphrased.
The scene is a conversation between a 30-something daughter and her 60-something mother. The daughter says she is thinking of getting a Shiba, the national dog of Japan (a Shiba is one of six Inu breeds that include Akitas).
The mother asks, “Is that the national dog of Japan? Well, that makes sense.” The daughter’s hackles go up, but the mother interrupts before she can go further because she knows what is coming.
“That is not a racist statement,” says Mom. “The Japanese culture is independent, loyal, and respectful. It makes sense that they would breed dogs that reflect who they are.”
The mother is not in judgment. She is recognizing cultural characteristics that are part of who the Japanese are. The Japanese take pride in their culture, as they should. Why do Americans think it is politically correct to erase that? Prejudice against our differences is racism. The non-judgmental observation of those differences is not.
We cannot heal with another culture or another race if we are unwilling to understand each other by recognizing, accepting, and honoring our differences. These differences include how we look but also our cultural history and our experiences.
The “Wuhan” Virus
Calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus” is not, in and of itself, racist. It is common to nickname events for their origination point, which, in this case, is Wuhan, China. However, if someone says, those bleeping Chinese with intent of prejudice and judgment of the Chinese as a race, that is racist.
If this virus had originated in London or Paris, many people would lash out in frustration at those bleeping Brits or French. These would still be prejudiced and judgmental statements, but Americans would not consider them racist. If the virus had originated in the United States and had been called the “Chicago virus” or the “L. A. virus,” Americans would not consider that to be racist.
If Asian, African, or Arab countries talked about those bleeping Brits or French, those statements would or would not be racist based on the intent. All humanity has the capacity for racial judgment and prejudice.
Are we trying to identify and heal racism, or are we hiding from the real issues? Are we trying to help people be aware of racism so they can heal, or are we using it for personal or political gain?
Who gets to decide what is politically correct? Who gets to determine what is in another person’s heart when they speak? For that matter, who gets to be in charge of all the stereotypes and isms?
The pendulum is out of balance. It has swung from too far right to too far left, and we need to find the balance point if we are going to eliminate prejudice and judgment. We will each benefit from backing up to look at what we believe and why we believe it. We need to be aware of what we are accusing and judging others of thinking and feeling as our own mirrors.
It’s Not the What, It’s the Why
We know that it is not what we think, feel, say, and do that is most important. It is why we think, feel, say, and do that tells us our truth. The emotions that feed racism are the same ones that feed all the stereotypes and isms. What are your issues, and what are your whys? No one else’s whys matter. You are here to heal your prejudices and judgments, so go for it! Do you understand racism so that you can truly heal it? Are you being 100% honest with yourself about what you have healed and what you have not?
We were each born into a specific race as part of our personal spiritual suitcase to learn certain lessons in this life. And bless those with the gift of mixed race. What an incredible learning opportunity in addition to busting the stereotypes and breaking down the old paradigm! Whatever your chosen race this time around, you have chosen well for what you need to learn to evolve to your next step.
Celebrate our differences as sacred. Embrace what makes us unique with fascination and gratitude. Be the instrument of true change, and do not get caught in someone else’s battle. Be honest, be true, and keep shining your light. I love you.
Photo from Gerd Altmann from pixaby.com